Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake Damages College's 18th-Century Chimneys; Main Campus Relatively Unscathed

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Tuesday’s earthquake severely damaged two 18th-century chimneys on College properties in Chestertown’s historic district — one at Hynson-Ringgold House, and one at the Custom House — but left the buildings on main campus remarkably unscathed.
At Hynson-Ringgold House, the 1740s brick structure at the corner of Water and Cannon streets that is home to the College president, one of five chimneys was severely cracked by the seismic rumbling. The 100 block of Cannon Street was closed as a precaution against falling bricks.
A block away, at Water and High streets, one of the Custom House’s three chimneys (the one on the river side of the building) buckled and is in danger of falling. The building, which also dates to the 1740s, houses the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the Center for Environment & Society, and the College’s public archaeology lab.
On the recommendation of a structural engineer who surveyed the damage, both chimneys will be dismantled and rebuilt. A masonry contractor has been hired to stabilize them and begin repairs.
On the main campus, the quake rattled buildings and nerves but left facilities with little or no damage. Buildings & Grounds staff, accompanied by a structural engineer, inspected all mechanical spaces and the central boiler plant Tuesday night and found no damage or broken lines. A visual inspection of all buildings revealed no significant cracking and no broken windows. Inspectors did find superficial cracks in the Hodson Hall floor slab, but no other damage has been reported.
Meanwhile, the College is bracing for Hurricane Irene’s expected arrival on Sunday, August 28, the day before classes are scheduled to begin. Because of the heavy rains expected on Sunday, the College is asking all upperclassmen to return to campus for check-in a day earlier, on Saturday, August 27.
Photos: The seismic shaking left one of the five chimneys at Hynson-Ringgold House severely cracked, prompting police to block off Cannon Street to protect pedestrians from the possibility of falling bricks.